Mack Thomas traveled joyful road in life

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 24, 2013

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, I got up and readied myself for the day, just like most everyone else. I went through my day as I normally do, taking for granted the many things I should never take for granted but selfishly do. A friend of mine didn’t get to ready himself for the day; as a matter of fact, he didn’t get the opportunity to experience Jan. 8, 2013, at all. William “Mack” Thomas passed away at the age of 58 in the wee hours of that morning.
Unless you were a Salisbury Hornet fan you probably didn’t know Mack because he loved two things in life, his parents and the Hornets. His father, who passed several years ago, and his mother, Louise Thomas, were first in his life. His devotion to them was unsurpassed. In recent years his mother has been sick, so Mack spent a great deal of time with her, only leaving her side to film his beloved Hornets in an athletic contest.

His second love was Salisbury High athletics, where he had been filming games for over 30 years. Over that time he had filmed countless football, basketball and baseball games. He would be early to every game, either to set up to film or to make sure he didn’t miss the bus for away games. I think basketball coach Jason Causby spoke volumes about Mac when he said, “Mac was the most reliable and loyal person I have EVER known.”
I don’t really know why Mack loved Salisbury High so much; he never mentioned it. I do know he graduated from Salisbury back in the early ’70s and was hooked on Salisbury from that point on. All I know for sure is that without a doubt, Salisbury was a better place because of him.
I’m not sure I have ever known anyone with the optimism Mac had for the Hornets and its athletes. We could be down 10 runs with two outs and two strikes, and you couldn’t convince Mac we were going to lose. Truthfully, I envied his ability to see the bright side of things and marveled at the way he let things bounce off him.
As the news spread of Mack’s death, I started to realize just how much I took Mack for granted. At times Mack could try your patience. He would call you 10 times in a day if he needed to find out what color jerseys you were wearing in the game so he could coordinate his shirt to match. But I always knew it was because he cared so deeply and passionately about Salisbury and the kids who made up the teams.
Mack was a unique individual who had an almost childlike quality when it came to enthusiasm about life. He never took himself too seriously and refused to let others ruin his day. It took me and Coach Causby forever to get Mac to speak up unless he was asked to. I will always remember fondly the day the basketball team was traveling to Charlotte Latin for a scrimmage and we weren’t sure which way to turn at the interstate exit. We discussed it and took a left. We drove probably 10 miles and I told Coach Causby this couldn’t be right. Mack spoke up and said it wasn’t — we were supposed to take a right off the exit.
I said, “Mack, why didn’t you say something; we’ve been going the wrong way for 15 minutes.”
“You didn’t ask me,” was the only response I got.
You couldn’t help but chuckle. It was his of letting you know he had plenty to offer.

It takes a special person to impact as many lives as Mack did. There are countless numbers of fans and players both past and present who all have a Mack moment, a memory that will forever stay with them, something that will cause a warm smile to spread across their face just when it’s needed the most. I for one will miss Mack standing there with his camera rolling, cheering enthusiastically every move the Hornets make. I will miss his eternal optimism and love of the Hornets, but mostly I will miss the bus rides with Mac where he would gladly give you a “Mackism” that you seldom understood but always appreciated. For all those who have come through the baseball program, “right field will be forever wide open.”
Although Mack’s time here on Earth was brief, his spirit lives on. Life is about opportunity, and what we choose to do with that opportunity defines us, to ourselves as well as others. Mack chose to use his opportunity to blaze his own unique path. He shared with everyone who knew him an unbridled enthusiasm, along with a spirit filled with kindness, compassion, loyalty and devotion. As I get older I realize just how special people like Mack are, and just how valuable the time spent with them is. Salisbury High athletics will never be the same.

Scott Maddox teaches and coaches baseball at Salisbury High.